As clean-up efforts continue, new concerns arise

The wait is almost over for nearly 50 families still under an evacuation order in Lawtell.  On Thursday, the remaining displaced residents will be allowed back into their homes.  But while the clean-up efforts are still underway, there are now new environmental concerns.

Just as Lawtell residents are getting the green light to head home, a new worry has popped up in surrounding waters. Officials say a chemical substance was found in vegetation and Bayou Mallet after a rice farmer irrigated land.

It's very concerning for one resident, Anthony Standbury, who lives a half a mile from the site.

“There is a really chemical smell out here,” said Standbury. “For some reason or another, I'm concerned about it getting into our water system which is no more than a mile or so from here.”

On Wednesday, several environmental agencies were testing the waters and berming areas to stop water run-off. The Department of Environmental Quality sent off samples to see exactly which chemical is creating a film along the surface.

“The material is clearly very biodegradable and in sunlight breaks down quickly,” said Paul Miller with the DEQ. “But, it can have potential impacts on fish so that's why we're concerned about getting it out of the bayou as quick as we can.”

And Louisiana State Police are staying vigilant as well to ensure the safety of livestock, crops, and vegetation.

“It's a contained area, which is why it's so important to dyke those areas off and vacuum up as much material as possible,” said Colonel Michael Edmonson, State Police.

Farmers have been told to halt irrigation. And although officials say the chemical is in a contained area, residents say the smell alone is alarming.

“As highly diluted as what it is now, we still have the smell and we're roughly two to three miles from the site,” said Standbury.

Officials say the test results should be back in the next few days.

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